Professional and technical education often includes both classroom training and extended service as a resident or apprentice under an experienced mentor. Such residencies and apprenticeships give students hands-on experience through which they explore their strengths and weaknesses in a safe environment, make and learn from “rookie mistakes” under the careful eye of a mentor, and proceed afterward into their professions better prepared to persevere and to make a difference.
In ministry training, however, we typically send Bible college or seminary graduates onto the field with a primarily classroom-based education. Though the education might include a summer internship or a weekend ministry, such limited experience lacks the intentionality, mentoring, and duration that students need before they lead ministries of their own. As a result, young ministers enter the field ill-prepared for the opportunities and challenges that lie before them. Too often, they throw up their hands in frustration after a few short years and walk away from ministry, leaving churches damaged and the kingdom with fewer leaders.
Intent on addressing this weakness in ministerial training, Johnson University has entered a partnership with Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona. This partnership will offer Johnson students the opportunity to participate in an undergraduate residency or graduate apprenticeship for nine months at Christ’s Church of the Valley. The thirty-credit experience will earn students an undergraduate major or a master’s degree in Strategic Ministry.
Christ’s Church of the Valley ministers on three campuses outside of Phoenix, drawing around 20,000 people to its worship services each weekend. They have an impressive, missional external ministry and a high-challenge, high-accountability internal atmosphere. In 2012, they baptized over 1600 new followers of Jesus. The church’s mission statement explains, “At CCV it is our mission to WIN people to Jesus Christ, TRAIN believers to become disciples, and SEND disciples out to impact the world.” Furthermore, they often say, “We are about introducing people to the adventure that a life with Christ can bring, and then challenging and encouraging them to live a life of significance.”
Dr. Mark Moore, who taught New Testament at Ozark Christian College for twenty-two years, now serves as teaching pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley and plays a key role in the church’s partnership with Johnson University. Moore explains,
Christ’s Church of the Valley is proud of our partnership with Johnson University. It is encouraging to have one of the great Christian Universities in America link arms with one of the finest churches in America to tackle this pressing problem: There is a 50% attrition rate in ministry within the first five years of leaving college or seminary. This is unacceptable! We all agree. The solution is not easy, but it is simple. The academy and the church must work together to thoroughly prepare young people for Christian service. Therefore, Johnson and CCV will offer students an experience that will include three years of classroom work and one year of residency. This is not dissimilar to medical professionals, educators, or first-responders who have long recognized that theoretical training must be implemented under professional mentoring before an individual is prepared for independent service. This partnership is a game-changer for the future of ministerial training.
Dr. Carlus Gupton, professor of Church Leadership and New Testament at Johnson, agrees: “On-the-ground experience like this is how we should be training ministers.”
All undergraduate residents and graduate apprentices will be equipped in ten competencies. These competencies include leadership training with Senior Pastor Dr. Don Wilson, a course in The Life of Christ conducted in Israel with Dr. Mark Moore, and other fields such as volunteer management, staff development, and event and projects management. Additionally, each resident will choose a concentration in Church Administration, Sports Ministry, Inter-Cultural Studies, Church Planting, Pastoral Ministry, Youth Ministry, Children and Family Ministry, Worship, or Special Needs Ministry. While the experience will include some time in the classroom, the format will emphasize hands-on learning under the guidance of mentors.
Undergraduate students who pursue the major in Strategic Ministry will complete their Bible and Theology and Arts and Sciences requirements during their first three years at Johnson and then spend their senior year at Christ’s Church of the Valley earning thirty credits toward their professional degree.
Graduate students who pursue the Master of Strategic Ministry will participate in a graduate-level online course with Dr. Carlus Gupton prior to the residency, complete additional graduate-level work during the residency, and participate in a post-residency online course with Dr. Gupton. Graduate students will complete the entire, thirty-four credit Master of Strategic Ministry within twelve months.
Johnson University is thrilled to partner with Christ’s Church of the Valley. We believe this relationship will significantly further Johnson’s passion and legacy of preparing those who desire above every other desire to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.